Following Oregon State University’s handling of improper surgeries on sheep, activist group Stop Animal Exploitation Now! Is calling for larger penalties due to the severity of the situation.
In April 2018, OSU self-reported previous infractions of animal experimentation rules that took place during five surgeries performed on sheep in November 2017. The National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare documented in their response to OSU’s self-report that they believe Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee properly handled the matter and appropriately punished those involved. However, SAEN! , an animal rights organization, believes the school and faculty involved should face harsher penalties.
During the collection of uterine tissue from ewes for a study of ovarian hormone function, performed by an OSU faculty member and a student anesthetist, multiple departmental rules were broken. Although all animals involved survived and faced no postoperative complications, two of the surgeries were performed under expired protocol, surgery records were unavailable or incomplete and departmental rules were broken while obtaining drugs used in the procedures.
Staci L. Simonich, associate vice president for Research Operations and Integrity, said OSU prioritized handling the situation in a manner that would uphold the school’s accountable reputation by self-reporting the incidents.
“Oregon State is a very accountable public university,” Simonich said. “When we identify a problem, we fix it. If the problem is not compliant with a local, state or federal regulation, we report the matter and the steps we took to correct the matter going forward.”
The staff member involved, whose name has not been released, was initially barred from performing animal surgeries. They also attended a day-long conference to better understand procedures and policies.
However, it was uncovered in March 2018 after the faculty member had already been through corrective measures that they had also failed to disclose information about two other previous noncompliant surgeries on sheep, leading to a year-long suspension from participating in live animal surgeries and related procedures.
After obtaining a letter detailing the events that took place in November 2017, SAEN! sent a formal complaint to the United States Department of Agriculture requesting that OSU be charged $10,000 per infraction per animal.
Michael Budkie, co-founder and executive director of SAEN!, said it is critical the university be held accountable for its actions both financially and in the eyes of the public. The public’s right to knowledge about a program they fund, the disrespect of animals and the errors that could lead to deaths of animals are all reasons this matter should not be taken lightly, Budkie said.
“This shoddy ‘science’ takes the lives of animals, often demonstrating that they are treated as though they were simply objects to be used and thrown away,” Budkie said.
SAEN! Has called for a permanent ban of the faculty member.